Environmental groups have expressed alarm at the appointment of Owen Paterson as the new Environment Secretary.
Talking to The Mancunion, the Manchester Green Party questioned his green credentials, calling him the “last sort of person we want in charge of the environment”.
The Minister’s record on environmental issues has left green supporters in the North-West scratching their heads, as Lancashire feels the “threat of massive expansion” in ‘fracking’ for shale gas extraction.
Some homeowners near the gas exploration rigs have already begun to put their houses on the market in an attempt to “get out before prices start dropping”, an estate agent told The Guardian in June.
Brian Candeland, spokesperson for Manchester Green Party, told The Mancunion this appointment was one of a number that “takes the Government to the right” in the recent Cabinet reshuffle.
In a Cabinet meeting earlier this year, Mr Paterson called for an end to all energy subsidies and the fast-tracking of shale gas exploration. Although fracking is “more green than coal mining”, concedes Mr Candeland, “there is conflicting scientific evidence”. Shale gas is seen as an alternative to importing fossil fuels because of its abundance underneath Britain. Sites in the Home Counties, Scotland, Wales, and Lancashire have all been identified, with the Northwest used as a trial in 2011. This caused tremors registering 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale, which the drilling company Cuadrilla concluded were probably caused by shale gas extraction.
Local opposition fears of pollution of drinking water and the threat of earthquakes put a halt to the process almost as soon as it began; a scientific inquiry in April recommended continuation given new safety measures. But Mr Candeland believes the Northwest could be “a leader in renewable technology”, with “massive scope for offshore wind farms”.
Mr Paterson, an outspoken opponent of wind farm technology, has previously fought plans to expand output from Welsh wind farms that would extend into his constituency of North Shropshire.
The Mancunion contacted the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), who directed us to Mr Paterson’s Parliamentary Office, which was unavailable for comment.